Those who will not slip beneath the still surface of the well of grief turning downward through its black water to the place we cannot breathe will never know the source from which we drink, the secret water, cold and clear, nor find in the darkness glimmering the small round coins thrown away by those who wished for something else.
We were getting ready to drive to a music gig near Keuka Lake, filling water bottles, ironing clothes, and packing snacks when I spotted the mail basket. I rifled through the pile and came across a letter addressed to me from the U.S. District Court. Oh no!!! (Oh, yes.) It was a jury summons–but this was worse than usual: for a period of at least a year, several times per month, an hour and a half drive each way.
At the moment I felt like freaking out, but we had a three-hour performance that afternoon, so I read it over once and set my freak-out aside until after our show. By the evening, my chest felt tight, by the end of the next day, I had a sore throat and my shoulders and neck were sore with tension.
I filled in the online questionnaire and gave a valid excuse why I couldn’t serve (my business can’t survive without me), but I have to wait three weeks to find out if I still have to go.
So, now I have a choice to make: I can live each moment until then in fear, worry, upset, dread, and panic, or I can find ways to act and think differently–with positivity, joy, and courage.
Gretchen Rubin’s Third Commandment from her Happiness Project is “Act the way you want to feel”. Does that seem too much like “Fake it till you make it”? But think about it: Where will those good feelings come from if we don’t take the energy we have and transform it into something better?
If you don’t happen to wake up happy and positive each day, do you just let that dark cloud of gloom hanging over you ruin your whole day? I’ve absolutely been guilty of this. I’ve also had days where I wake up super negative but do the things I know will propel me out of my funk.
The first scenario is a passive one: I just go with whatever happens, just feel whatever feelings I feel and act however I feel. The second scenario is active: I take what I have and make something better out of it. Do you know these are both decisions?
You and I can either decide that we will let our feelings run us OR we can decide that we will run our feelings. You are more powerful that you realize! You have the power to make or break your day!
But what about if you’re already an anxious person (like I am) and you happen to be in an extremely anxious season? The Fall seems to heighten anxiety for me and I know I’m not alone. We don’t have to take it! (Does this remind you of a certain Twisted Sister song?)
I wanted to share a list of things that help me calm down. Some of these I am learning in Ayurveda School, some of them I’ve learned in the HSP class I’ve been taking, some I’ve learned as an aromatherapist, and some I’ve discovered on my own. They all help, but there’s just one catch: We have to actually do the things!
Visualize how you want your day to go, walk through any known difficulties and decide how you will handle them. (Thanks, Brendon Burchard, for your awesome High Performance Planner!)
Develop a daily yoga practice. It could be 5 minutes or 90 minutes, but practice. There is nothing else like it for calming the mind, connecting the mind and body, and grounding you.
Drink herbal tea/coffee substitute. You know what? I don’t love most herbal teas, but I drink it because it calms me down. Lemon balm has been daily go-to. However, I just found a new caffeine free gluten free herbal tea that satisfies my coffee craving without the jitters. If you’re a coffee nut like I wish I could still be, you gotta try it: Teeccino Dandelion Coconut Roasted Herbal Tea.
Go for a walk outside. I always feel refreshed and my nervous system feels soothed when I do.
Eat lots of plants.
Have a gratitude practice. This could be in your journal in the morning or at night.
Keep a positives journal. This is new to me, but the teacher of the HSP class said sensitive people focus on the negative too much and need positive things to keep them grounded. Make notes of what good things happen in a day, things you love, moments of happiness, and then read through these when you’re feeling anxious.
Read poetry. YES!!! If you think you don’t like poetry, start with children’s poems and approachable poets like Mary Oliver and David Whyte. Poetry speaks to and nourishes the soul, the emotions I would say that if you’re a sensitive person, like I am, you may not be able to read some poetry that tends to be chaotic, angry, and violent. I tend to gravitate toward poems that express reverence for nature and that speak to the inner life of a person. These are a good place to begin:
Get a massage whenever you can anddo self-massage daily. Even if you don’t get to a full body self-massage every day, which I highly recommend, at least do a foot massage right before bed. Some warm sesame oil and a drop or two of Lavender essential oil massaged into your feet will send you into blissful slumber.
Practice positivity. Focus your thoughts and speech on “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.” This is found in Philippians 4:8.
Spend time processing your day: thinking about and journaling about it. According to my HSP teacher, sensitive people need about two hours of alone time each day.
Take one day off per week. Does this sound impossible? I know, it’s pretty difficult for me as well. When I do it, my life is better. We all need adequate rest and time for recreational pursuits. Work on this one and I will too!
Use an aromatherapy diffuser near your desk while you work and in your bedroom at night. Turning it on for an hour or two at a time is a wonderful way to calm down your mind, emotions, and your whole body. Calming essential oils like Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Black Spruce, Cypress, and Mandarin are a few to try, either individually or blend a few together.
That’s my list. I hope you find some useful tools to help you handle bouts of anxiety. I would love to hear about what things help you when you are feeling anxious.
And, finally, here is an aromatherapy blend to use in your aromatherapy diffuser.
Calming Blend For Anxiety
1 drop Vetiver
2 drops Black Spruce
2 drops Red Mandarin
3 drops Lavender
PS: Today’s title was taken from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: “But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”
We are like children in the master’s violin shop not yet allowed to touch the tiny planes or the rare wood but given brooms to sweep the farthest corners of the room, to gather shavings, mop spilled resins and watch with apprehension the tender curves emerging from apprenticed hands. The master rarely shows himself but whenever he does he demonstrates a concentrated ease so different from the willful accumulation of experience we have come to expect, a stripping away, a direct appreciation of all the elements we are bound, one day, to find beneath our hands. He stands in our minds so clearly now, his confident back caught in the light from pale clerestory windows and we note the way the slight tremor of his palms disappears the moment they encounter wood.
In this light we hunger for maturity, see it not as stasis but a form of love. We want the stillness and confidence of age, the space between self and all the objects of the world honoured and defined, the possibility that everything left alone can ripen of its own accord, all passionate transformations arranged only through innocent meetings, one to another, the way we see resin allowed to seep into the wood in the wood’s own secret time. We intuit our natures becoming resonant with one another according to the grain of the way we are made. Nothing forced or wanted until it ripens in our own expectant hands. But for now, in the busy room, we stand in the child’s first shy witness of one another, and see ourselves again, gladly and always, falling in love with our future.
Your great mistake is to act the drama as if you were alone. As if life were a progressive and cunning crime with no witness to the tiny hidden transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely, even you, at times, have felt the grand array; the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding out your solo voice. You must note the way the soap dish enables you, or the window latch grants you freedom. Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity. The stairs are your mentor of things to come, the doors have always been there to frighten you and invite you, and the tiny speaker in the phone is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the conversation. The kettle is singing even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots have left their arrogant aloofness and seen the good in you at last. All the birds and creatures of the world are unutterably themselves. Everything is waiting for you.